TV column for Wednesday, Nov. 23


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Empire,” 9 p.m., Fox.

On Thanksgiving eve,
reruns and specials abound. So we might as well see (or re-see) this
terrific rerun of the “The Empire” season-opener.

Last season ended
with Rhonda and the pregnant Anika fighting on the balcony, with one
of them crashing down. Now – quickly and spectacularly – we learn
which one it is. There are other big moments, involving a thug
producer, his talented sister Tessa and Jamal, who tries to bounce
back after being shot and nearly killed. This is high-stakes,
high-voltage stuff, backed by some great music.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Soundbreaking” finale, 10 p.m., PBS.

Big Mama Thornton's
”Hounddog” sold a half-million record; when newcomer Elvis
Presley did the same song, this excellent hour says, it sold 10
million. There were many reasons for that, including a basic one:
Presley had a 45-rpm single, the new thing for teens with their own
players in their rooms.

Such changes in the
delivery system keep transforming music. When long-playing discs
came, Frank Sinatra cut the first concept album. When FM radio grew,
the hitless “album rock” guys soared. Now comes streaming; our
descendants, Moby says, “will be baffled that people once owned
music.”

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: Specials, 8-11 p.m., NBC.

The 90th
edition of the Macy's Thanksgiving parade will be 9 a.m to noon
Thursday on NBC and CBS. First, NBC has an 8 p.m. special, looking
back at the parade's history.

That's followed at 9
by a “Saturday Night Live” collection of Thanksgiving skits. In
the past, that's included Adam Sandler's “Turkey Song” and Paul
Simon in a turkey costume. Juliana Margulies found that her boyfiend
has strange eating habits; also, Martin Short gave us an Ed Grimley
holiday.

Other choices
include:

Animation, 5:50 p.m.
and beyond, cable. Families have three networks to choose from.
Disney starts at 5:50 with its “Elena/Sofia” crossover (2015),
then has “Despicable Me” (2010) at 7. FX has “The Croods”
(2013) at 6 and and the delightful “Rio 2” (2014) at 8 and 10.
Freeform has female action heroes, with the gorgeous “Mulan”
(1998) at 6:45 and “Brave” (2007) at 8:50.

“Survivor,” 8-10
p.m., CBS. While others take a pre-holiday nap, this show has a
two-hour episode. That comes at a tough time for people from the
former “Millennials” tribe. After having only one of the first
five ousters, they've now had four straight; the latest was Taylor
Stocker, 24, a ski instructor.

“Hollywood Walk of
Fame Honors,” 8-10 p.m., CW. For 58 years, names have been added to
this sidewalk stretch; there are more than 2,500 of them, ranging
from superstars to the super-obscure. This special views highlights
and adds music fron Daughtry, Michael Bolton, Candace Glover, David
Foster, Pia Toscano and the Beach Boys.

“A Charlie Brown
Thanksgiving, 8-9 p.m., ABC. In a 1973 cartoon, Charlie tries to
assemble a feast on his ping-pong table. ABC tends to round out the
hour with the Pilgrim portion of its Peanuts mini-seres.

“Broadcasting
Christmas,” 8 p.m., Hallmark. This channel starts a five-nigt
streak of new Christmas movies. This has a former couple (Dean Cain
and Melissa Joan Hart) competing for a coveted TV job.

“Polar Bear Town,”
8 and 11 p.m., Smithsonian. We meet the young woman who was attacked
by a bear last year, surviving with strong support from friends and
community. Other portions are so-so: One guide adds a young
apprentice; another joins an ambitious process to identify bears.

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, Claire frets about “Take Your Daughters to
Work Day.”

“Code Black”
(CBS) and “Queen Sugar” (Oprah Winfrey Network), both 10 p.m..
Here are the night's only new, scripted episodes. On CBS, cult
members who tried a mass suicide are rescued; on OWN (with previous
hours from 7-10 p.m.), the siblings scramble to find a new mill for
their sugar crop.

TV column for Monday, Nov. 21


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Dancing With the Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC.

We're down to the
final four now, with viewers' last chance to vote before Tuesday's
finale. And there's a strong chance that an athlete will win ...
again.

During one stretch,
eight of the 16 winners were athletes – three skaters and three
football players, plus a driver and a gymnast. And this time they
have three finalists -- from 6-foot-6 footballer Calvin Johnson to
5-foot gymnast Laurie Hernandez, plus driver James Hinchcliffe. The
lone exception is singer Jana Kramer ... who did play a football
star's girlfriend on “Friday Night Lights.”

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Soundbreaking,” 10 p.m., PBS.

It all started with
New York block parties; gifted DJ's – two of them with Caribbean
roots – mixed and matched sounds, then added rappers. It was fun
and it was free. “I thought it was inconceivable in 1978, '79 that
there could ever be a rap record,” Chuck D says in this terrific
hour.

Then “Rappers
Delight” sold two million records. Hip hop ranged from joy to rage
to the political intensity of Chuck D and Public Enemy. The borrowing
of other records brought dizzying creativity, producer Hugh Shocklee
said, until lawyers intervened. “Now sampling is only available to
the elite.”

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Raised by Wolves,” any time, www.acorn.tv.

What sort of
disaster could drive Getmaine Garry – the undereducated and
overhormoned teen-ager – to the library? Only one: Her cost-cutting
mom has cancelled the Internet connection.

In this unnatural
habitat (where her sisters thrive), Germaine talks loudly and gets
her first date; elsewhere, her elders are dumpster-diving. Here's the
six-episode second season of “Wolves,” which is like Showtime's
“Shameless” -- a scheming, scamming and raggedly likable family –
but with more comedy and less drama. The result – what we could
discern through thick accents – is crude, but funny.

Other choices
include:

“The Voice,”
8-10:01 p.m., NBC. The show continues its week-by-week process of
eliminating people from the top 12. Last week, the bottom two were
Sa'Rayah (from Alicia Keys' team) and Aaron Gibson (Miley Cyrus'
team); Gibson won the instant save and Sa'Rayah was sent home.

“Supergirl,” 8
p.m., CW. Life never seems to be easy, even if you have superpowers.
Tonight, Supergirl confronts Cyborg Superman. Also, Mon-El has been
captured and Guardian is accused of murder.

“Jane the
Virgin,” 9 p.m., CW. When her cousin arrives, Jane begins to doubt
her own too-orderly life. Meanwhile, her husband is ready to return
to police work and her mom finds a dance-studio location that's
perfect ... except that her ex-boyfriend (Ricardo Chavira of
“Desperate Housewives”) is nearby.

“2 Broke Girls,”
9 p.m., CBS. Han is busy tonight: He's entering a contest for
duck-stamp artists; also, he's becoming addicted to the concoctions
from the trendy new bartender.

“The Odd
Couple,”9:30 p.m., CBS. Rich Eisen, a sports guy on radio and TV,
plays himself. Oscar (also a sportscaster) considers him his
nemesis,. but is supposed to give him a humanitarian award.

“Scorpion,” 10
p.m., CBS. Lea Thompson guests as Paige's estranged mother, who
defiinitely needs some input from the geniuses. It seems she's found
a nuclear reactor that's ready to explode.

“Timeless,”
10:01 p.m., NBC. The team is stranded in hostile territory in1754.

TV column for Sunday, Nov. 20


TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“American Music Awards,” 8-11 p.m., ABC.

Here are many of the
top names in pop music – Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, John Legend, The
Weeknd and (telecast from Zurich) Justin Bieber. There's more,
including Green Day, James Bay, Fifth Harmony, Shawn Mendes and
Twenty One Pilots, plus a solo turn by Niall Horan of One Direction.

Then there are the
links -- Ariana Grande with Nicki Minaj, The Chainsmokers with
Halsey, Maroon 5 with both Sting (who gets a special award) and
Kendrick Lamar. Jay Pharoah of “Saturday Night Live” hosts with
Gigi Hadid, the supermodel whose music experience consists of acting
in videos.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE
II: “Durrells in Corfu” season-finale, 8 p.m., PBS.

Raising her family
on a war-widow's pension in 1933, Louisa (Keeley Hawes) has barely
survived on this Greek island. Now her world has brightened; she's
ready to marry Sven, the quiet goat farmer.

First, her four
children interrogate him; it's a bright, funny episode ... which
takes a dark turn, then somehow finds a tad of brightness. In a
terrific finale, we also fret about Louisa's eldest son's love life
and about a wealthy widow (Leslie Caron) who refuses to venture into
the world.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Leverage” (Ion) or “The Librarians” (TNT), all
day.

Maybe this happens
in the fevered dreams of TV people – two of their shows colliding
in marathons. Now that happens in real life for John Rogers, the
creator and producer of both of these shows.

“Leverage” was a
sly and entertaining show about scammers who cheat the crooked.
Today's marathon (9 a.m. to 1 a.m.) goes from mid-way in the first
season to late in the second. “Librarians” has people travel
globally to fight exotic forces. The second season reruns from 5 a.m.
to 3 p.m.; the third starts at 8 p.m.(rerunning at 9), with the
Egyptian God of Chaos.

Other choices
include:

Red-carpet, 6-8
p.m., E. Tinashe and Jason Kennedy host the American Music awards
preview.

“The Simpsons,”
7 and 8 p.m., Fox. First is a rerun of the “Boyhood” take-off,
tracing Bart from age 6 to adulthood. Then a new episode focuses on
being a dad: Homer has an app for that; Grandpa learns he's going to
be a father again.

Football, 8:20 p.m.
ET, with preview at 7. Veteran quarterback Aaron Rogers (a former
MVP) and the Packers visit Kirk Cousins (only in his second full year
as a starter) and the Redskins. The two men have near-identical
ratings this season, but the Redskins are 5-3-1; the Packers are 4-5
and struggling.

“The Walking
Dead,” 9 p.m., AMC, rerunning at 11:01. Saddled with grief –
catch reruns of the two previous episodes at 6:35 and 8 – people
try to find safety at the Hilltop before it's too late.

“Madam Secretary,”
9:30 p.m. (9 p.m. PT), CBS. A Venezuelan earthquake creates crises
for Elizabeth and her brother (Eric Stoltz). As secretary of state,
she tries to prevent a power-grab there; as a doctor, he's torn
between rushing there to give aid and taking a steady job in an
effort to save his marriage.

“Last Man on
Earth,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. What do you do when you're possibly the
Earth's only survivors? Carol (Kristen Schaal) obsesses on a perfect
family photo; Lewis (Kennety Choi) looks ito a new hobby. And Gail
(Mary Steenburgen) gets stuck in a scary situation.

“Masterpiece:
Indian Summers” finale, 10 p.m., PBS. With lush visuals and
difficult characters, this series never quite clicked with audiences.
Fortunately, producers has plenty of warning that this would be the
end; tonight, srong stories converge. The Whelans' home is being
sold, with Cynthia desperate to buy it. Alice is returning to
England, with Aafrin straining to stop her. And Sooni, Aafrin's
sister, insists on marrying a Muslim, just as Hindu-Muslim anger
explodes. “Summers” departs passioately.

TV column for Saturday, Nov. 19


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Free Birds” (2013), 8-10 p.m., NBC.

The world is
overloaded with Christmas cartoons and underloaded with Thanksgiving
ones. Here's a notable exception, springing from the tradition of the
president pardoning one turkey each year.

Most of the pardoned
turkeys don't worry about their doomed comrades. (Turkeys are like
that.) But this one (Owen Wilson) discovers the government's
time-travel machine (George Takei, of course). He goes to Pilgrim
times, finding love (Amy Poehler) and trying to change minds and
menus.

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Saturday Night Live,” 11:29 p.m., NBC.

This election year
has been big for “SNL” ... and the post-election period has
started even bigger. Last week's episode was the highest-rated among
young adults (18-49) in three years; it topped the Nielsen ratings
for last November by 24 percent overall and 58 percent with young
adults.

Fortunately, that
was also an exceptionally good episode – from its surprising
opening (Kate McKinnon, as Hillary Clinton, singing “Hallelujah”
seriously and beautifully) to the calming perspective of host Dave
Chappelle. Now Kristen Wiig hosts, with music by The XX.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: “Race” (2016), 8 p.m., HBO.

A sharecropper's
son, Jesse Owens moved north with his family at 9. In Cleveland, he
held jobs, went to school and ran and jumped – faster and
furtherthan anyone else. At Ohio State University, he broke three
track records and tied another – all within an hour.

Then came the 1936
Olympics in Berlin, where Adolph Hitler spoke of white supremacy ...
which Owens quickly refuted. It;s a great story, competently told.
Stephan James – mostly unknown, beyond some Canadian series
(“DeGrassi,” “L.A. Complex”) -- is Owen, with Jason Sudeikis
as his coach.

Other choices today
include:

-- Animation
marathon, 3:10 to 10:10 p.m., Disney. “Toy Story” (1995) and its
sequel (1999), both delights, start things at 3:10 and 4:40 p.m. Then
it's “Brave” (2012) at 6:20 and “Tangled” (2010) at 8.

-- “Ghostbusters”
(1984) and “Ghostbusters II” (1989), 6 and 8:30 p.m., AMC. Mixing
wit and special effects, both films are great fun. They repeat at 11
p.m. and 1:30 a.m.

-- Football, 7, 7:30
and 8 p.m. ET. A week after its undefeated season crumbled, Clemson
(ranked No. 4) visits Wake Forest, at 7 p.m. on ESPN. At 7:30, Fox
has Washington (No. 6) hosting Arizona State. But the best match-up
might be at 8 p.m. on ABC, with Oklahoma (No. 9) at West Virginia
(No. 14).

-- “CSI,” 8
p.m., CBS. Abby (Pauley Perrette) doesn't leave her lab very often –
and after seeing this episode (a rerun fron a year ago), we can see
why. She's visiting a pharmaceutical lab on a murder case, when armed
men take over. Now she has no escape and no way to reach the outside
world.

-- “Dirk Gently's
Holistic Detecitve Agency,” 9 p.m., BBC America. Yes, this show is
often bizarre; it is, after all, based on Douglas Adams novels and
has animals being transformed into people. But tonight also ranges
from sharp humor (involving a thick-headed young cop) to some
dead-serious confessions by Dirk and his reluctant colleague, played
by the terrific Elijah Wood.

-- “The Killing
Season.” 10 p.m., A&E. In the first three episodes (rerunning
at 7 p.m.), the search for the killer (or killers) of Long Island sex
workers expanded to other cities. Tonight, investigators consider a
link to the murders of four women in Atlantic City.

-- “Where Are They
Now?” 10 p.m., Oprah Winfrey Network. As Miley Cyrus conquers the
world, it's time to check in on her dad (and former co-star) Billy
Ray, once dubbed as the new Elvis. Also featured are singer Sisqo,
actors Joseph Marcell and Danielle Spencer and Shoshana Johnson, the
first black American woman to be a prisoner of war.

TV column for Friday, Nov. 18


TONIGHT'S MUST-TRY:
“Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS.

Frank Reagan (Tom
Selleck) has been diligent as a Catholic and as New York's police
commissoner. Now those worlds collide, when a priest refuses to say
what he heard in confession, leaving Frank's people with little
information to find a missing boy.

Meanwhile, one of
his sons (Donnie Wahlberg) investigates the death of a socialite who
had a secret life. The other (Will Estes) attends a wedding with his
police partner (Vanessa Ray).

TONIGHT'S MUST-SEE:
“Soundbreaking,” 10 p.m., PBS.

Nile Rodgers figured
he was a hip, funky guy. A Black Panther and the son of beatniks, he
hung in Greenwich Village; then a girlfriend took him to a disco. “I
said, 'I want to be a part of this, where the music never stops.'”
His band Chic soared ... until the disco wave abruptly ended.

Or did it? “I
think disco has been more lasting” than people think, musician
Questlove says here. This excellent hour, on the music beat, traces a
strong line from R&B to funk to disco and on to the rest -- from
Madonna to electronic dance music. Whether by man or machine, the
beat seems eternal.

TONIGHT'S
ALTERNATIVE: More music, 7:50-10 p.m., BET; 9-10 p.m., PBS.

While waiting for
the PBS show about music, you can hear music by the best. BET reruns
Tuesday's “Obama Celebration,” with music by Jill Scott, Usher,
Janelle Monae, Bell Biv Devoe, Michelle Williams, the Roots, De La
Soul and gospel greats Yolanda Adams and Kierra Sheard.

And PBS has the
misnamed “Alan Cummings Sings Sappy Songs.” Sappy songs are
superficial; Cummings tackles ones with immense depth. At times, he's
mastering ones from Chita Rivera, Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus. At
others, he dedicates wrenching songs to his troubled father and
grandfather.

Other choices
include:

“MacGyver,” 8
p.m., CBS. We really wish we had MacGyver in real life. Extremists
are attacking the U.S embassy in Latvia; fortunately, Mac has a
chisel and a matchbook to stop them.

“Last Man
Standing,” 8 p.m,, ABC. Chuck has inherited a car and Mike (Tim
Allen) wants to buy it. But Joe, a car buff (played by Jay Leno, the
consummate car buff) wants it too.

“Southwest of
Salem,” 8-10 p.m., Investigation Discovery. In 1997 and '98, four
Latina lesbians were convicted of child rape, amid claims of
Satanism. Later, an alleged victims recantrf, the medical examiner
changed her mind and similar cases were discredited nationwide. The
women are finally out of prison, but haven't been legally exonerated.
Here's a rerun of a powerful documentary.

“Dr. Ken,” 8:30
p.m., ABC. This time, Ken's wife and co-worker reach their tipping
points. For Allison, it comes during a Thanksgiving drive to her
parents' house, when Ken and the kids misbehave; for Clark, it's when
he tries to micro-manage dinner at a shelter for the homeless.

“Hawaii Five-0,”
9 p.m., CBS. A conspiracy theorist has been killed. (We suspect a
cospiracy here.) Now the team looks into the question he was probing:
Why was John Kennedy's cabinet on Oahu, just before he was
assassinated?

“Crazy
Ex-Girlfriend,” 9 p.m., CW. After a terrific hour last week, the
show settles for a barely-OK one. The story focuses on the show's
weakest element – Rebecca's extreme neediness – as she forces
Valencia into friendship and a festival. There are some good moments
with Paula in law school, but the music numbers are relatively small;
there's little to remind us that this is often a great show.

“Wolf Creek,”
10-11:20 p.m., Pop. Here's the conclusion of a six-part mini-series
that started fiercely, with a loner (John Jarratt) attacking an
American family in the Australian Outback. Now the teen survivor
(beautifully played by Lucy Fry) closes in on him. Previous episodes
are at 8 and 9 p.m.